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Private Schools for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Submitted: July 2014

The main problems expats have with the publicly funded state schools in Saudi Arabia are: all of the teaching is done in Arabic, they are generally only open to Muslims, and girls and boys are segregated into different schools. As a result most expat children attend private schools. There are generally two kinds of private schools in Saudi Arabia: Saudi private schools and International schools. This article is only concerned with Saudi private schools.

There are nearly 4,000 private schools in Saudi Arabia, the bulk of these are run on the same traditional lines as the state funded schools. For reasons stated above, it is unlikely that these would be of interest to expats. The remainder of the schools teach a mixture of curriculums. Some cater more or less exclusively for the expat community from a single country; for instance there are many Filipino schools in Riyadh. It should be possible to find a good school which teaches an English curriculum, but you will need to do your research. Generally because of the time taken to arrange your work visa, it should be possible to ask around on the various forums on the internet, and get some advice from parents already on the ground; even if it is only to tell you where not to place your children. There is a good page of links to the various schools in Riyadh here (in the margin are links for other cities). There is also a list here of some of the best known schools including some curriculum details and fees.

Private schools that teach in English are available at primary, intermediate and secondary level. Some also provide pre-school facilities. Primary education is between the ages of 6 to11, intermediate schooling takes place between the ages of 11 and 14 and secondary schooling lasts for three years until the children are 18 years old. The curriculum at each school will vary depending on which international standard the school has adopted. Generally at secondary level your children will study maths, science, history, geography, English, art and PE, and they may also study one or sometimes two other languages. As an expat it is important to consider whether the standard of education received is going to be sufficient to enable your child to progress normally if you were to return home. This is especially important at secondary level; you should make certain to check any school’s record to ensure that graduating students have achieved places in universities in your home country on a consistent basis.

In order to register, you will have to contact the school. The following minimum information is generally required for registration:

  • Name of child
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Copy of the birth certificate
  • Child’s school records and exam results
  • Names of parents
  • Address and contact details
  • Passport size photo of the child, and
  • Copy of your Iqama

In addition there may be more detailed information required. You may also have to pay a sizeable registration fee. Fees for international schools in Saudi Arabia vary quite a lot, as an example at the top end, the yearly tuition fees at the Jeddah Prep and Grammar School for years 12-13 are over SAR60,000 (approx. £9,300) for the year.

Unlike state schools, International schools are free to set their own term dates, so you will have to check with the schools themselves. Some schools conform to the Saudi standard, with two terms a year with a short break in the winter and a long break for the summer months. Other schools have adopted the traditional three term school year, though again the bulk of the holiday is in the summer. Generally the schools will have half-term breaks as well. In addition, national holidays may also be observed.

 

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